Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With VTS Chief Financial Officer Michelle McComb
This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.
Leasing and asset management platform VTS, previously known as View The Space, hired Michelle McComb last April as chief financial officer to help scale the business following its $300M merger with competitor Hightower in November 2016. McComb has overseen the financial and operational performance of several high-profile companies, including Datto, Bloomberg's Financial Products division, UBS Investment Bank and Lucent Technologies.
VTS is a leader in the commercial real estate technology space that enables landlords and brokers to manage assets in real time and to reduce risk across their portfolios. More than 28,000 users operate their businesses using VTS' platform and use the site to manage 7B SF of commercial real estate assets. The company has raised $107M from venture capitalists since its founding in 2011, according to Crunchbase.
Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?
McComb: My main role as CFO is to oversee the company’s financial strategy and ensure that we’re continuing to make smart fiscal decisions that are helping the company grow. Additionally, since we’re a fast-growing tech company with investors, I have the fiduciary duty of looking after both.
Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?
McComb: I’ve always been interested in emerging tech — in fact, that’s why I chose to work at VTS. We’re changing the way people operate within an industry that, until now, has been hesitant to take on new technologies. If I wasn’t at VTS, I would want to be in some sort of industry that is changing and improving the way that companies are operating.
Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?
McComb: My first-ever paying job was as a grocery bagger which, in itself, was actually really fun! However, if you were assigned a certain shift, you had the responsibility of suiting up and hosing down the meat department, which was pretty awful for so many different reasons.
Bisnow: What was your first big deal?
McComb: My first big deal was when I was a first-time CFO of a small startup in Silicon Valley. We were acquired by a publicly traded company, which led to our stock being translated into publicly traded stock virtually overnight, which was pretty cool. It was an amazing learning experience and it was exciting to be part of steering the company through this process. I ended up rewarding myself with a little red sports car which, believe it or not, I still have and drive to this day!
Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?
McComb: In one of my previous roles there was a flaw in a forecasting model that had been built way before I was an employee there which, in good times, worked pretty accurately, but in a more volatile market would generate inaccuracies. Once I realized this was happening, the size of the variance was significant. This was pretty stressful, not only since as a finance professional accuracy and attention to detail are essential, but also because I take huge pride in my work. This was the first time I had anything of this nature happen under my management, and regardless of the circumstances, I chose to own the problem in its entirety, which in itself was pretty stressful. However, I’m always of the opinion that our biggest mistakes are often the largest learning experiences we can have. This particular experience taught me that, as a leader, it doesn’t actually matter who made the mistake. You need to own the problem and focus not only [on] solving it, but [on] how it's going to improve.
Bisnow: How do you define “making it”?
McComb: I don’t know that you ever make it, do you? I’d like to think that "making it" isn’t a destination, but a journey that you’re on. If I said "making it" to me is being the CFO of a company, I’ve already done it — it’s [about] what are you going to do next.
Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?
McComb: When people are dishonest or disingenuous. I’m a pretty straight shooter and very ethically grounded so I can’t stand when a situation is handled in a way that’s manipulative or unethically bound.
Bisnow: Who is your greatest mentor?
McComb: I honestly didn’t have a lot of professional mentors in my career because I wasn’t surrounded in the early days by a network and community that fostered mentoring — asking for advice was interpreted as a sign of weakness. Rather, I learned a lot from watching people that I didn’t want to be like, and since I know the disadvantage of not having a mentor, [I] have become a huge proponent of mentoring others and do so whenever I can. It’s important to embrace being a female leader and [to] encourage other, younger female professionals to be true to who they are.
Bisnow: What is the best and worst professional advice you’ve ever gotten?
McComb: Best — Nothing good comes easy. If it’s easy, it’s probably not worth it. Also, don’t ever compromise who you are or your underlying values.
Worst — Don’t take risks and instead just play it safe. My thought on this is that if you play it safe, you’ll never be challenged and find out just how great you can actually be.
Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?
McComb: Horseback riding. It’s my biggest extravagance because I would genuinely work just to be able to afford it. I picked it up five years ago on the back of a Groupon when I was looking for something fun to do with my daughter on the weekends. A pony and two horses later, my daughter and I now both compete and it's become a huge passion of mine. I do believe it makes me a better professional — you have to put yourself out there and can’t get in your own head, all while trusting something that is much bigger than you. When you get on that horse you can’t think about work or anything other than being on that horse — it's my go-to stress reliever!
Bisnow: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?
McComb: There’s a row of restaurants in Hong Kong located across the street from all the fish markets. You pick out your fresh fish from the market and then bring it to one of the restaurants across the road to be cooked. It’s awesome because they really don’t have a menu and they create all these incredibly fresh little tasting dishes from the fish you personally select.
Locally, I’m a huge fan of Tequila Mockingbird in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Bisnow: If you could sit down with President Donald Trump, what would you say?
McComb: I would probably pass.
Bisnow: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken?
McComb: Going from a high-paying job in a very stable industry to the emerging tech world. While it’s [riskier], it’s definitely way more interesting and fun, plus I can have a much greater impact.
Bisnow: Whose work do you most admire?
McComb: My 10-year-old daughter, Hayley. She amazes me every day. I feel very fortunate to have her in my life and if there’s anyone who makes me a better person, it’s her.
Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?
McComb: I’m of the opinion that everything takes a village, but what keeps me up at night is making sure I have the right villagers. At the moment, I have a lot of aspects of the company that I’m responsible for and there’s quite a bit to juggle. I currently have a few positions to fill and want to make sure I’m creating the best support system so we can scale the company as efficiently as possible.
Bisnow: Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?
McComb: Horseback riding and spending time with the people I love!